Hermosos Espíritus

Mis hijos son hermosos espíritus y muy importante a mí. Estoy contenta con mi vida.

I’m preparing my 5th and final final. It is in Spanish. I must speak for five minutes in Spanish, without reading. 

Me gusta hablar en español. Mientras tanto, I have been unable to blog or comment on comments or visit my friends here. I look forward to the summer “break” and to hopefully posting/commenting more steadily. We shall see what life unfolds.

Peace, y’all…

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Frommful Meanderings, Snarlings And Freedom

“Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.” Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

“…a man is considered active if he does business, studies medicine, works on an endless belt, builds a table, or is engaged in sports. Common to all these activities is that they are directed toward an outside goal to be achieved. What is not taken into account is the motivation of an activity. Take for instance a man driven to incessant work by a sense of deep insecurity and loneliness; or another one driven by ambition, or greed for money. In all these cases the person is the slave of a passion, and his activity is in reality a “passivity” because he is driven; he is the sufferer, not the ‘actor.’ On the other hand, a man sitting quiet and contemplating, with no purpose or aim except that of experiencing himself and his oneness with the world, is considered to be ‘passive,’ because he is not ‘doing’ anything. In reality, this attitude of concentrated meditation is the highest activity there is, an activity of the soul, which is possible only under the condition of inner freedom and independence…

In the exercise of an active affect, man is free, he is the master of his affect; in the exercise of a passive affect, man is driven, the object of motivations of which he himself is not aware…

love is an action, the practice of a human power, which can be practiced only in freedom and never as the result of a compulsion…

Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a ‘standing in,’ not a ‘falling for.’ In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving.”

All from The Art of Loving

These expressions resonate deeply here. My world is too busy to suit me. I want to give more than the constraints of demand allow and I ask myself why that is, besides the obvious. And I wonder what I can do to bring the kind of balance that puts me back in a position of giving from a place of overflowing aliveness. Non-stop demand can make compulsive automatons of us all. Part of the problem here is the merely temporary shoving end-of-semester study scramble. But it all adds up. How can my life, with all the roles I fulfill, sufficiently give where it matters most to myself, to my children and beyond, recognizing there are limits on what one person can give, recognizing that those three fields include row upon row of truly valid requirement? Myself – all that I require to maintain balance and be a resource. My children – all that they require. Beyond…

I may have to cut down to two classes a semester. I may have to cut it out completely in search of a job while wondering if I’m shooting my future earning capacity in the foot in order to secure myself as a more viable resource NOW. School. Work. Parenting. Long-term relationship with ______. It is quite a conundrum. But the truth is, it is impossible to fathom every possible outcome. It’s sometimes better to choose rather than stall in analysis. That’s why school has been a full-time (for my world!) affair and a great restorative experience for me thus far in some respects. But the crashing halt of so much else is daunting. For someone who wants to see everything running smoothly so I can give as much as possible to all that matters to me (including to myself!), it’s also highly restrictive. And sometimes you run into one professor who makes you wonder how it is “education” has such a grandly elevated status on the totem pole of life. I have to submit to this narrow intelligence and lack of perspective?! And take a bad grade from someone whose attention is hijacked by insecurity-driven agendas? Every indignant thread of me has managed to stay put and not march out of my developmental psychology class this semester, muttering “my time, my energy is precious…you have GOT to be kidding me, such rich material and wow…”

This is when I start to snarl…  freedom, where is it? I resent the constraint. So, the cultivation of a vision of what “freedom” works itself out to be in this particular phase of life is essential. If I did not have long sit-still sessions of total silence I would be a complete wreck. And moonlight helps.

This is when I appreciate Maslow where he says “self-actualization is a matter of degree and of frequency rather than an all-or-none affair.” Self-actualization includes the realization (not merely the mental realization but the whole-person realization as an experiential fulfillment) of the capacity to love as that active giving from a place of freedom. The snarling commences…how to preserve that freedom? It seems like the answer lies in choosing a path that is not reacting in fear of the possible future lack or in fear of current lack but holds a realistic vision, adopting a wise course of action that respects both present and future concerns while maintaining a faith in life’s vast opportunities for love to grow. No small feat. Sometimes I can only manage to snarl.

In the meantime, Fromm keeps me reminded of the wonder of aliveness, of the life lived outside the gate, past the dutiful piecemeal fragmented meals stewed in soulless compliance to rote “right” and beyond to resilience thriving in awareness of the power of love as an active affect of vibrance overflowing both spontaneously and in calculting efficiency. Sometimes a life of such love requires concentrated downtime, rest. Other times it requires meticulous planning and implementation while maintaining a sensitivity to the moment, to the value of changing course in a blink of “accidental” intuitive brilliance. Other times it shoves you into leaping first, asking questions later (and snarling at the obstacles). But always…

stillness required. And for now, study essential. On with it…

More Accidental Grace

Where do you go when no one’s there to lift the other side of the couch, to move it? Who do you call? You tug, stumble, scramble, sweat. It’s moved. It happens alot in my world. No whining. I chose this. But the appreciation these times evoke is priceless. Appreciation for kind words, compassion, mercy. Grace.

What are these influences, these human realities we label? Grace? I could write a lifetime and not convey it. Bird song. Therein is grace. It stops on my chimney just outside and overhead and calls down a song sounding like the light at the end of the tunnel when I’m about to give up. Ah ha ha…sing. Waking me up in the morning on the tree outside my window. A lilt and my heart thrills. I hear it. It tells me: Life is here. Now and around this bend and beyond the sense of isolation. The phone rings…”Hey Ruthie!!! I needed to hear your voice!” More grace. Songs. I left Georgia 10 years ago. I don’t miss it. But my dearest friend, sisters and parents are there. And more friends and. I’m here.

Then sitting down after swallowing lumps of frustration down the throat (for some reason, ultra-sensitive lately -full moon), sighing with the protein bar, chowing down in-between classes and a kind soul walks up…are you an artist? I laugh. All I can do is laugh. Am I? I write. I dot. I study. I mother. I am. But do I feel myself qualified for a label just yet? No. Will I ever? I looked at him “Well…I do dots. Maybe that makes me an artist.” I’m longing. Longing for the feel of a paintbrush these days. On the canvas. Up there in my room in the attic. Quiet. Birds singing. But school hounds my energy, commanding and demanding a rectification of “lost” time.

Ha. No loss. I tell myself this every morning. It’s not that you’re late.

I reach into my bag. Book bag full and there. Slam. Exam next. Oh. Ho. Ho. Last night I was up to my eyeballs in being the compassion and mercy for my youngest son who had not had the help he needed up to that point on a project due the next morning. My morning of classes. And. I forgot the exam now looming, losing myself in bolstering boy writing words in their place on paper filled with Crayola clues. No study. Precious little time. I am. Labeled. A. Student. Mom. Artist? Writer? Aspiring lover. Of. Freedom.

I jump up and run, but it’s a jaunt and not really much more than a fast walk. To the library. Everything is disjoint jumble hurry hurry. Where’s my class pal? Where is he? The one with the long blonde curls and big smile. I find him in the library…”Is is true? Did I actually forget we have an exam?” Grins. Oh yeah. Study, cram, spin in circles and slam down at the desk, drumming fingers, wishing my teacher were not so graciously covering critical parts of the test for us (how kind!!! really!!! she gave me 4 answers right then and there before the test began!). But I’ll be late. I have to get my daughter to physical therapy. This is the class I was going to leave early to take her for her time of “terror” with knee strengthening rigors. Don’t get me going on the knees. And the load she bears just knowing the story of generations producing her own story. She is courage and her knees. They rat us all out. That’s how I feel. Responsible. Her knees hurt because I….? What have I not done fast enough? Damn, and if she had some terminal illness? Am I this hard on Ruth? What about my daughter? Does she feel it and take it on her own back? Does she know I love her? She does. She knows. Gulp. Lump. Throat. Push. Pencil on multiple choice (hallelujah) exam. I think I got an A, actually. Accidental grace? Somewhere way back there on the path I bought the lie that any illness in my family, in my children is my fault. Forgive me, mothers all. I’m learning to lose the worst label.

Test is over. Rush. Run. I’m late. It took longer than I expected. I’m huffing up one. two. three. four. flights of stairs and talking into my cell. Hurry, get ready. We’re going to be late. Stress. Fret.

No.

I won’t. What if I round the bend and that’s the end? What if? I look up at the blue and I slow down. There has to be compassion awaiting. It has to start right here. In my step. With myself. This is the best I have. I can’t be all. No label fits. Life rips them, shreds them all in tatters when you stitch carefully so neatly even just one (mom). Those ideas grasp at me, begging me to keep, to hoard, to fret over how they don’t fit just yet on my chest: Artist. Writer. Student. Mom. I breathe deep, drive and strive to…rest. Then. I give up. And peace finds me. A series of stops and starts and awakening of daughter and out the door. We’re very late. First session. Not a good impression. Blah. The cell rings. “Is this Ms. Kelly?!” “Yes, I am so sorry… just turning in to the hospital now. Had a…” “Oh! It’s OKAY! No problem, really. I’ll be outside to meet your daughter. Just drop her off. No worries…” She’s mothering me. She’s mothering my daughter and I’ve seen her only once. She oozed grace even then. We get there and she’s overflowing compassion. I realized that at every turn lately that’s what I run into. Smack, slam, stomp land into…grace. I didn’t earn it. It just is.

It’s that simple. No steeple story high into the sky producing good people. Life does it. You either break or bend. You either reach out a hand of compassion or stand rigid, bracing against your own humanity and. Life. Or. You live in love. Rambling on…

Love’s Objects? Or Love’s Conscious Orientation?

My house is a mess. I’m shaky from not feeling well and not eating enough today and. I’m supposed to be writing my final essay for Critical Thinking and. And I’m supposed to be studying for my World Lit. final. And. And I’m floundering. The question of the essay: “How do you understand who you are?” Wow, I’ve asked that one for over three decades now. It has shaped my life. This should be a breeze! But answering the question in an essay that also asks me to articulate my plans for the future with a timeline…argh. It’s doable but I feel caged by it. There are so many possible twists in the road of my life, so many restrictions too. I have choices and yet their consequences, gulp. So, I’m wallowing in the first part of it ‘though it’s the easiest bit for me. How do I understand who I am? Love is how I understand who I am.

Attachment issues and damnation stories wrap up their ribbons of love and hint only at the capacity, the untapped depths of immeasurable wealth waiting the conjuring of hope. Hope beyond the History and Shitory. Did you know that if you accidentally type too fast, you get “shitory” when trying to type about your personal history? It puts the howl in serious reflection. It caricatures the somber perspective and turns the world upside down. I love it. It is the divine enlightened nonsense of whimsical devotion turning dedicated plan-making into a derisive jaunt down memory lane. It is the contradiction to what is truly historically serious and precious but would not be known as deeply without the satire of yes…shit. Shitory. Yes, I typed “shitory” today for history. Oddly, there are no definitions for this word. I’m considering creating one. In the meantime, I see it all as a work of growth, of life speaking to me and molding something within me, from the typos to the final essay to the dishes in the sink. But how? How do I understand who I am? Love.

This brings me to Fromm and reminds me of leg-clenching quandaries and blessings, the use of “objects” and the soil of character itself:

“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism. Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty. In fact, they even believe that it is a proof of the intensity of their love when they do not love anybody except the “loved” person…Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object–and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to that of a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object, and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it. If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to somebody else, ‘I love you,’ I must be able to say, ‘I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself.'” Erich Fromm – The Art of Loving

Fromm goes on to distinguish that we do channel our love towards specific individuals for specific purposes (eros,

love's endless feed

brotherly, etc.). I can’t read this and not go on to say that this is a process, that we are opened up to love ourselves, to love life and all of humanity by opening up sometimes more exclusively to one person or group and then it expands. And the whole world is open, alive in our hearts. We can still grab our “object” and find greater resonance with one as opposed to another because the capacity to love between two unique people may surpass the capacity elsewhere, than with a different combination. So many possibilities, so many potential “object” fixations but love is beyond even this, is the “power of the soul.” I love this definition. It is action. It is the stuff that feeds faith and puts one foot in front of the other. (To write an essay when everything in me is screaming “Do NOT make me write this.” Get to work, woman.)

I feel my life changing. That is why I shy away from writing about it. I feel 2010 as a big leap out of some moldy cocoons. And I should be excited, right? What if my wings fail me? What if…what if…what if I get slammed back down again? WHY(?!) did that happen to me? What if…

love happens. It’s happening now and somewhere past the crash of reflection on history. I can make a plan and adjust as I need to. I don’t know why I had to write this except that it feels like a layer coming off of me, a work of acceptance of the risks and resilience of love beyond any object distortions, “objective” history or…even the shitory. I can plan again. And again.

It’s all good.

Daunting Dante . . .

Lately my days have been spent trekking through the cold mud of literary landscapes and:

“Gross hailstones, water gray with filth and snow streaking down across shadowed air…” (Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy – Dante’s Inferno)

Dante’s description of the third circle of hell is anything but hot and yet I love the contradictions heralding the layers of perceptions of hell. We have fire. We have ice. Dante’s world is cold, the worst state of the heart. But his passion for “righteousness” (or was it POLITICS?! methinks that’s the fire.) burned through his creativity, piercing centuries of religion with the worst of damnation’s offerings. I can only shake my head in awe and wonder. Such tenacity and brilliance and so much energy expended in reaction. Part of me wonders where we’d be today if this work had not burned through centuries of the devout, hopeful of God’s approval.

Where do you land after you’ve read Dante’s Inferno? Do you run back to the fiery realms of the more popular infernal damnation? It’s pretty mild compared to Dante’s ripping, shredding, devouring, icy, dismembering annals of recrimination…

Birthday Card From Ev

Nothing Much of Dante Here...

It’s been mind-numbing. But while wading through the slush, compiling dissections for literary criticism of the third circle of Dante’s vision, my kids took the time to inundate me with chocolate cake, gifts and cards. Now there’s a bit of salvation: chocolate and cards and laughter.

My youngest didn’t realize how perfectly timed his card to me, shown above. I let out a howl. For one thing, the card has the word “hell” in it and this is a BIG DEAL for my son. He doesn’t much like cussing. But he’s heard me let a few slip. Especially the one I just don’t think of as a curse word. I mean, really. HELL. This card is his way of embracing the more impulsive, human parts of his mom. I thought it mighty big of him and more loving than any gruesomely conjured divine “love” freezing us all out of compassion and hope in the name of “redemption.” Oiy, but I DON’T have a problem with some of religion’s layers. It’s NOT like any of it has oppressed whole centuries of lives or shackled minds in fear. [sarcasm alert]

Is it? Or is it that we’ve just not had the appetite for anything but the burning cold shut-out? How much has religion influenced and how much has it facilitated what has been the inevitably harsh boil of self-hatred? Where does it start?

I don’t know. I just know I need cats and kids with bigger hearts than the pseudo-god (as opposed to the very real Divine flow loving) and delicious fire burning us all into acceptance of every layer of what it is to be human, every “circle” of the “hell” we can make the most of, in spite of centuries of condemnation. And comic relief from the son whose sense of humor runs deep, drawing inspiration from veins of precious wicked refusal of shame:

Cat Cure

The Cat Cure

Is it any wonder my favorite Psalm includes these words:

“If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me…Even the darkness is not dark to Thee…darkness and light are alike to Thee…” (excerpts from Psalm 139)

Somewhere between the daunting realms of Dante and the Psalms of David, we run into the truth. These beds we make in hell, we make ourselves – even if it’s all we were taught to do up to that point. The heights we climb, we choose them. And somewhere past the worst distortion of love and around the damnation bend we find the real thing. The only solid salvation. It will likely lick your toes and meow. It will beg your brain to melt and cease the endless dismembering of self in thoughts of good and evil. It will definitely inundate you with a rich acceptance chuckling in the love of children. It will likely ask you to bend a few rules and cook up something steamy delicious behind closed doors.

Praise God and pass the firewood. I’m ready to forget Dante!

Too Big A Bite . . .

The rains flood my world this week, washing the brightness, floating leaves yellow all around. I walk under dripping canopies, trees sending waves of shine through wet air, a pale golden hue whispers stillness as the leaves paint their way to the ground. It’s been surreal, beautiful and real. A rainstorm of compassion on my world in the form of many kind gestures. Some from myself, some from instructors and sisters and dearest friends. It’s a week of deeper commitment to a layer of growth not found in the halls of education but it has certainly been provoked by it.

rain of color

the rain sparkles in twilight

At some point this past Sunday I faced the truth I’d been running from for 3 weeks: Statistics had to go. 4 classes after 22 years of absence from formal education is a hell of a lot to ask of someone with 3 kids and concerns for maintaining a level of health I’ve fought hard to attain and it’s not perfection by any stretch. I had not taken any other math courses since the age of 19. That’s a long time. The truth is, I had a B average in that class but the past 3 weeks left me stumped. It wasn’t sinking in and I didn’t have time to get help. I could cram and spend every spare second beating my brain around the subject but it would hurt my 3 other classes. Since I could still drop without it reflecting badly on my GPA, I took the leap. But what a painful leap. I loved that class. Oddly enough. 

Sounds like no big deal, just life, lah tee dah. But it’s a big deal for me. All of this time is a big deal. And it’s been frought with tinges of frenzy to compensate for a sense of lost time. But what a black hole that idea becomes. “Hurry up Ruth! You’ve been losing time parenting and crawling out of generational wreckage and obsessing over what to do next and LOOK AT YOU! MOVE IT.” I can be ruthless. Lost time? When I’ve been giving my energy and time to things immeasurably precious? You can’t squeeze the equivalent of two lifetimes into one. But I have a tendency to want to do that very thing. And then I feel like a freak when I can’t pull it off, sure that everyone else is far more “together” than I am.

Then I ran into my very Italian Lit. instructor. Scorpio wonder supreme. She became part of the shower of compassion this week.  I’d not done well (in my estimation anyway. it really wasn’t that bad, actually) on the last test and wanted to understand how my essay had gone so wrong. The timing of our meeting to discuss the essay was perfect. It turned out to be a rich flow of sharing life situations and encapsulated therapy. And encouragement and support in my choice to cut back. “Ruth, when I was your age and had one child it was too much! I took TWO classes.” This one 30 minute slice of pragmatic and generous aid was healing. Just watching her in class, waving her arms around and speaking her New York Italian accent is a wealth…and she’s another refugee of the worst of religion. Great simpatico sustenance in her presence.

So, a reality check via respect for limitations and a love of self’s trails and trials leading up to now has been the order of this week (including a birthday that initially started out loathesomely blah). I love to use Roots of Asia tarot and for weeks and weeks I kept getting the 10 of wands. H-e-a-v-y burdens. “you are over-doing it.” Duh, I do that! But, I usually let it crush me before I actually change things.  Not this time.

And the rains keep falling all over this world. Everything drips wet, pregnant with promise, a promise of deeper resilience in the moment whose guarantee is only of life’s transience. And immeasurable value.

On with it…(lighter load!!!)

(good luck Kristy!!!)